When you think of Valentine’s Day, what do you picture? Loved-up couples…candlelit dinners…cheesy cards…heart-shaped everything… romance. Whether you like it or loathe it, we’re all human, and we all love love. It can be hard to find, so naturally we celebrate it when we can!
But while romance gets all the limelight, love shows up in our lives in so many different ways. Connection. Understanding. Respect. Acceptance. Loyalty.
Is it possible to feel all this with a friend? A family member? A pet? Or even a whole village? We think so. Our shared experiences and our shared passions can unite us and create strong, essential bonds that give us a true sense of belonging.
At Inspired Villages, we encourage and cherish this belonging more than anything else, because we know that this is what it takes to build a community where we all feel loved. We asked residents across our villages to tell us about the greatest loves of their lives, and what they shared shows us love in all its richness.
Gifford Lea residents Harry and Norma show the possibilities of love throughout the ages, but more than that, they show the importance of having a passion, for staying interested, and being open to new experiences. We asked what kept the sparks flying after 58 years of marriage: ‘Tolerance and patience and doing things you enjoy together, and still having a laugh most importantly.’
Is there anyone more loyal or devoted than our four-legged friends? Jean at Gifford Lea speaks movingly about her dog Snuggs, the very epitome of the faithful stalwart who refused to leave her husband’s side in his last days and then became her own constant companion: ‘He walked with you. If you stopped, he stopped too…he was just there with you, all the time’.
Support isn’t just a one-way street. Austin Heath resident Lizzie shows us how the strongest friendships are reciprocal, even in the toughest times: ‘My friend is Judy. She had two really bad heart attacks and I’ve been trying to take care of her with her eating. I take her out, and she usually buys me lunch when I do.’
Wendy manages our Inspired Friendships group, bringing residents together to share their time, their thoughts and their feelings. As their relationships grow, she sees the changes it can bring about: ‘It’s all about standing by each other in moments of need, offering emotional encouragement and genuine understanding.’
Inspired Friendships member Linda emphasises the strength these friendships bring. ‘The group keeps you from feeling so lonely and cut off from everyone else. It is such a special group to belong to...I would be lost without them all.’
Michelle, our Wellbeing Coordinator at Millfield Green, too relishes in sitting back and watching residents’ connections blossom: ‘One of my favourite parts of my role… is seeing the residence’s friendships form and grow and how it enriches their lives... knowing how important this must be for them too.’
Building our community means depending on each other, on being there and supporting each other. We’re not afraid of relying on each other or of sharing ourselves, when perhaps at other times we would have prized self-sufficiency.